Elif Güveyler, who decided to become a pilot because of her love for aviation while teaching English, has managed to become one of the most successful female pilots in Turkey. Elif Güveyler has also gone down in the history of the country as the first female captain of Kuwait.
KUWAIT’S FIRST FEMALE PILOT CAPTAIN
As the first female pilot captain to serve in Kuwait, you went down in the history of the country. What was the attitude of the people of Kuwait towards you?
It’s a great feeling to be the first. It is very important to be in history somehow. We are all mortal. We will die one day. Maybe it’s a great honor and a joy to have a good name somewhere. I think it represents our country. I represent both our country and Turkish women. Nobody in Kuwait knows about Elif. Everyone says Turkish pilot. People treat you based on your passport. This is a great pride. I always have a Turkish flag badge on my jacket, along with the Kuwaiti flag. I always proudly state that I am Turkish. People sometimes ask that “Why don’t you work in Turkey? Why did you leave Turkish Airlines? Don’t you serve Turkey?” Sometimes people don’t realize this, but like an ambassador, you represent your country in every step you take. When it is said that a Turkish captain is flying while carrying 200 people at once, the happiness of the passengers is very different. People take pictures with me. We can take people into the cockpit from time to time. I am constantly intertwined with children and especially women. The people of Kuwait are not as open as we are culturally. There are currently three female pilots in Kuwait. Women do not have such enthusiasm. I was biased when I went to Kuwait. I learned that it is not as strict as Saudi Arabia, that they love us and see Turkey as their second home. I was sure that they would trust women. But I haven’t had any problems so far. I got very good response mostly from Kuwaiti fathers. When fathers see me, they show them to their daughters and say she wants to be a pilot, and take a picture. It’s much more proud for me.
I HAVE MY MOTHER’S GREAT SUPPORT
What was the attitude of your family towards you when you started to be a pilot? Did they support you?
Before I started piloting, I was an English teacher. Teaching is an attractive profession for women in Turkey. There is a three-month holiday in the summer. And they say that if you marry a civil servant, life will be good for you. When I first said this, my mother asked me, “Is there a female pilot in Turkey?” My mother only knew about Sabiha Gökçen. Until 1995, female pilots were not trained in Turkey. It was a shame and loss for this country. We have very good pilots in civilian. My family’s reaction was not much different. They said how will you do it? But they supported me. I could not come here without their support in coming to Konya. Studying here at Teachers High School was a turning point in my life. My mother has been a great support for me. It wouldn’t have happened without my mother. She came to my conference in Konya from Izmir. It is not possible without the blessings of my mother and father.
RELIGIOUS VOCATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE FEMALE PILOT
Elif Güveyler, who decided to become a pilot because of her love of aviation while teaching English, made special statements to The Konya News. Elif Güveyler, the first female captain pilot in Kuwait’s history, said that “When I was 26, when I was an English teacher for two years, I put all of my savings into the flight school of the Turkish Aeronautical Association and became a pilot. As a female religious vocational high school graduate, I am currently working in Kuwait.”
BEING PILOT IS AN ADDICTIVE PROFESSION
How did your piloting story begin? How did you feel on your first flight?
I was born in Izmir, in 1985. My father is a workman. After secondary school, I studied at a boarding teacher’s school in Konya. Then I graduated from 9 Eylül University English Language Teaching Department. Being a pilot was a job I never even dreamed of. If you are a woman, teaching is a profession that society finds very suitable for you. I’m the only one in my family who went to college, let alone being a pilot. The only way out for me was to study. Going to a teacher’s school in Konya was a big turning point. Because it helped me stand on my own feet at an early age and it was also influential in the bold decisions I made afterwards. My pilot story started after I started teaching English. It didn’t start too early. I was 26 years old. When I learned that there are civil aviation schools in Turkey, I applied here. I went after this job and my piloting story began. Before my first flight, I had only flown once as a regular passenger. My second flight was with a one-ton aerobatic plane with a training at my side. We did a test flight first. First we fly in small planes. The feeling is very different. You are afraid of even the slightest jolt in the small plane. But it was very exciting. It was an adrenaline-filled feeling. I have an adventurous spirit. It’s something that is somewhat in our genes. We always say: once aviation is in the blood, everyone complains, but no one can quit. It’s an addictive profession. Once you do that job, it’s impossible to quit.
PILOT IS NOT A JOB ABOUT GENDER BUT TECHNICAL INFORMATION WORK
How does it feel to work as a female pilot in Turkey? What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a woman in our country?
It is generally thought of as something very advantageous. There is an idea that everything is offered to you or put in front of you on red carpets because you are a woman. There is a perception that when you are successful, you did not achieve this, but because you are a woman, they favored you, they gave you this. It is not easy to break this perception. When we started this business, there weren’t many female pilots anyway. Companies were resisting hiring a female pilot, even hiring a civilian pilot. Many civilian pilots were unemployed at the time. There weren’t many companies like now. With the development of civil aviation, the sector had to employ female pilots. There is no difference being a woman or a man in this profession. This profession is a professional technical profession. There may be very bad women or men who do this profession. I don’t think it has anything to do with gender. It’s about perception, selfdevelopment and technical skill. We do not pass a single test. It’s not like a civil service. We have exams every six months. We have aerobics exams once a year. We are updating our licenses. If you are not well, this comes up for a while, you cannot continue. We’re getting to have to be good somehow.
How was the process of going to pilot school?
Actually, I got the idea of becoming a pilot thanks to my students. Soldiers and police have missions abroad, for this they need to take English lessons. I was 26 years old, I learned from my students that Turkish Aeronautical Association is a private flight school. I thought, ‘This is the job for me’. I was always someone who wanted to go beyond my limits and thought that I could do different things. Sometimes it can be an advantage not to have people guiding you in life, and you can make more free choices. The private flight school also had a financial dimension. With the money I worked and saved, I started pilot training. After 2 years of training, I got my license as a student pilot. Completing flight school doesn’t automatically mean you can get a job at companies. I passed difficult exams. I started working at Onur Air. After working for Onur Air for two years, I joined Turkish Airlines. Now I am working at Ceride Airlines in Kuwait.